I recently bought a Raspberry Pi, which is a credit card sized computer with an ARM processor. I'm using it as my TV frontend, running Raspbian and XBMC. I'm building my own packages for XBMC since it requires the latest development version.
I initially installed my Pi with the foundation image, but found that it included a lot of packages which I didn't need. Since I have a slight obsession about doing things as efficiently as possible, I decided to build my own image with XBMC from scratch.
I implemented a script in Bash, mkraspbianxbmc.sh which does this. It uses debootstrap to install a minimal Raspbian system in a chroot. It then installs XBMC and a couple extra packages, and does some necessary configuration. Finally it creates an image file with the necessary partitions, creates the filesystems, and copies the installation into the image file. The resultant image fits onto a 1GiB SD card. You can download a pre-built image from this page.
The script can be modified to build images with different packages, or even a very minimal image which fits onto a 512MiB SD card.
Extracting specific track segments from a track
I have an i-Blue 747A+ GPS logger which I use to track my runs (amongst other things). Afterwards I use BT747 to retrieve the data from the device and create a GPX file of the run, which I then upload to Endomondo which gives me nice graphs and statistics.
I need to modify the GPX file slightly before I can do so however: I use the button on the device to mark the beginning and end of the run, which appear as waypoints in the GPX file. BT747 creates separate track segments (within a single track) between each waypoint, but Endomondo ignores these. I therefore need to extract the single track segment covering the actual run and create a new GPX file with just that segment. I therefore wrote a script in Python, splittrack.py, to do this. It uses the gpxdata library to parse the input file, locates any track segment which match a set of time, distance, displacement and speed criteria1, and outputs a new GPX file with just those.
Integrating heart rate data
I then recently bought an Oregon Scientific WM100 heart rate logger. It listens to the broadcasts from a heart rate strap2 and records the measurements every 2 seconds. I retrieve the data using the wm100 driver for Linux which writes a CSV file like this:
In order to get this data into Endomondo, I needed to combine the GPS trace with the HRM data into a single file format which Endomondo accepts. I initially started implementing a library for the TCX format3, but then discovered that there is a GPX extension for including heart rata data which Endomondo accepts. So I wrote a script in Python, wm100gpx.py, which reads the input GPX and CSV files, merges the heart rate measurements into the GPX records, and outputs a new GPX file.
The entries look like this:
<trkpt lat="37.392051" lon="-122.090240"> <ele>-44.400761</ele> <time>2012-10-15T01:20:13Z</time> <extensions> <gpxtpx:TrackPointExtension> <gpxtpx:hr>175</gpxtpx:hr> </gpxtpx:TrackPointExtension> </extensions> </trkpt>
Edit: I've moved the latest information and updates about these packages to this page.
I installed Raspbian on my RPi, which is basically a rebuild of Debian Wheezy specifically for the RPi (targeting the ARMv6 architecture with hard float). I found various instructions on how to build XBMC for Raspbian, but none of them were in the form of deb packages, and installing software without packages just makes me queezy. So I went off and built it myself.
Since the RPi is relatively low powered, I built the package on my laptop using qemu-user, which emulates binaries with a different architecture. I based the packaging on the XBMC package in Wheezy, and the source is from the xbmc-rbp branch on GitHub. I made the modifications to the source as per this forum post and added an initscript so that it can automatically start at bootup.
The easiest way to install the package is to add my archive to your system. To do this, store the
and then import the archive signing key:
You can then install it as you would with any other package, for example, with
(If you don't want to configure my archive you can download the packages manually, but you'll have
to deal with all the dependencies. Note that it requires a newer
The user which you're going to run XBMC as needs to be a member of the following groups:
To run XBMC, run
If you want XBMC to automatically start when the system boots, edit
You also need to set the user which XBMC should run as (the
The following settings in advancedsettings.xml decreases the CPU usage while showing the UI. Disabling the RSS feeds also helps with this.
If you want to rebuild this package with a different source (e.g. a later Git revision), you need to
prepare the source by running
My wife recently got a Samsung Exhibit II 4G Android phone to replace her aging Nokia E63. Migrating her contacts was accomplished fairly easily by exporting them to CSV with Nokia PC Suite and then importing them into Google Contacts. Migrating SMSes was not so trivial however.
There are a couple methods floating around the web, but none were suitable. This one uses Gammu to retrieve the SMSes from the Nokia, and then a script to convert them to an XML format readable by SMS Backup & Restore. It turns out that Gammu doesn't work on Symbian S60v3 devices however. This script can convert SMSes exported by the MsgExport app to XML for SMS Backup & Restore, but I didn't feel like paying for it or dealing with the Ovi Store. VeryAndroid is a Windows application which can convert SMSes from Nokia PC Suite CSV format and sync them directly to an Android device, and Nokia2AndroidSMS can convert SMSes from the OVI Suite database to XML for SMS Backup & Restore. I didn't want to deal with more Windows software though, so I just decided to write my own.
I already had the Nokia PC Suite installed and was using it to migrate contacts, so I decided to work with the CSV output it generates for messages. A received SMS looks like this:
and a sent SMS looks like this:
The fields are:
Fields 4 and 6 are always empty for SMSes (they are probably used for MMSes, one being the message subject).
I also decided to generate XML for the SMS Backup & Restore app. The XML format looks like this:
but can be reduced down to this:
The attributes of the
I implemented a script called [nokia2android.py] in [Python] to convert one or more CSV files to this XML format.
The XML file can then be transferred to the Android device (using USB or Bluetooth) and stored in
Apple trackpads don't have separate buttons, the entire trackpad is itself a clickable button. The default OS X behaviour is to treat clicking the pad with two fingers as the right button, and clicking the pad with three fingers as the middle button. Enabling tap to click (i.e. touching the trackpad but not actually clicking it) tends to result in false positives since the trackpad is so big. I therefore setup this behaviour under Ubuntu Oneiric.
When I upgraded to Ubuntu Precise two finger clicks started registering as the left button. (Three finger clicks still worked.) It turns out that this is due to the new clickpad support in Precise. The solution is to disable the
I recorded some presentations at work recently using a Canon Vixia HF R21 video camera, and needed to encode the videos to lower resolution. It took me longer to figure this out than I expected, so I thought that I'd document the details.
The camera exposes an MTP interface when plugged in using USB, and the video
files are stored under
The best codecs in terms of storage space efficient seem to be H.264 and AAC, so that's what I chose to encode the output in. I wanted a good quality version at 720p, and a lower quality version at 480p. Since these were presentations, single channel audio is sufficient. I tried using both libav (previously ffmpeg) and mencoder and had trouble with both, but eventually got libav working.
The command I used for good quality was:
Audio is reduced to mono and encoded in AAC at 128kbps. Video is resized to
1280x720, deinterlaced, and encoded in H.264 with the default quality
settings. To adjust the quality one can use the
On my Intel Core2 Duo P8600 this encoded at 10fps with a video bitrate of
700kbps and audio bitrate of 83kbps. This puts an hour of video at 339MiB.
The command I used for low quality was:
Audio is encoded the same as above. Video is resized to 848x480, deinterlaced and encoded in H.264. Apparently codecs are more efficient when the resolutions are a multiple of 16 which is why the video is resized to 854 and then reduced to 848.
This encoded at 20fps with a video bitrate of 300kbps and audio bitrate of 83kbps. This puts an hour of video at 165MiB.
My fiancée and I recently bought our first property, which was an interesting experience. It is a fairly complicated process, and many people don't understand how it works or the costs associated with it. So I thought that I would document it to help anyone else looking to purchase property for the first time.
Deciding what you need
The first thing I suggest you do is decide what you need and what you want. Make a list of hard requirements, and another list of nice-to-haves. Consider things like: number of rooms, secure parking and garages, automatic gates, baths and showers, flat or townhouse or freestanding, garden, pool, balcony and appliance space.
Determining what you can afford
Work out how much of your income you could put into a bond each month, and use an online calculator to calculate the loan amount which that represents. Note that the maximum monthly repayment is usually limited to 30% of your income. If you are buying with your partner, your combined income can be used. Interest rates are usually linked to the prime lending rate set by the Reserve Bank. When we applied for our bond we were offered +1.2%, +0.2%, +0.05% and -0.62%, so I'd suggest working with an interest rate of prime or slightly above.
Work out what deposit you can afford, which is payable when your offer is accepted. Bear in mind that there are significant other costs which you will also need to cover (up to 5% of the purchase price). Your deposit will affect the strength of your offer, as well as your bond applications. Aim for at least 5%, and ideally 10%.
Most properties are sold through estate agents. The seller will approach one or more estate agents and grant them mandates to try to sell the property. The estate agent will usually perform a valuation and help the seller to choose an asking price. If (and only if) the agent manages to sell the property, the seller pays them a commission. The going rate seems to be 7.5% of the selling price (excluding VAT).
The best way to discover properties still seems to be the property section of the newspaper, although some of the estate agents have semi-decent website listings. We spent four Sundays visiting showhouses listed in the newspaper, as well as a few others which we made appointments to see. We probably visited about 25 properties in total, which is fairly good going. I would suggest visiting at least 10 properties before putting an offer in — it takes a while to be able to judge the value of a property.
When you find a property you really like and are seriously considering putting in an offer, I suggest that you go back for a more detailed inspection. I'm not suggesting that all these conditions be met, but that they should be considered when determining how much the property is worth to you.
Ask why the owner is selling, and what crime in the area is like. Check what the monthly rates are (preferably get a copy of the latest rates statement).
Check how many units there are (the fewer the better), and how many have live-in owners versus tenants (more live-in owners is better). Ask what the body corporate is like and how effectively it operates. Get the latest financial statements of the body corporate and check that they are financially sound. Get and read the conduct rules of the scheme (are pets allowed?). Get the latest levies statement and check what the levies are1. Ideally get the sectional title plan (a diagram showing the units) and check that the unit number is correct.
Making an offer
Once you've found a property you want to buy, you make an offer to the seller. This is a formal process where you draw up an Offer to Purchase which sets out the details and conditions of the offer. The seller will have a certain amount of time in which to accept the offer (usually about 2 days), and once they have signed the document it becomes the Agreement of Sale. The seller could also come back with a counter offer.
Remember that the asking price is simply a guide, and also that the agent wants to sell the property for as much as possible (since their commission is linked to the selling price). You need to decide how much the property is worth to you. In most cases it's worth starting with a lower offer and raising it if it's rejected.
The offer defines when occupation is handed over, either on a specific date, or when transfer goes through (i.e. when you legally own the property). If occupation is handed over before or after transfer, then the party with occupation will owe the owner an occupational levy (rent, basically).
Applying for a bond
Once your offer is accepted you will need to apply for a bond. It's worth applying to multiple lending institutions in order to get the best deal. The recent trend is to use a mortgage originator, who applies to numerous institutions on your behalf. They earn commission from the institution if a bond is accepted, so theoretically2 there's no cost to you. What we did was apply directly to the bank which we bank with, and got the mortgage originator to apply to the other institutions. This process usually takes about 2 weeks.
The lending institution charges an initiation fee on the bond, and there is usually a monthly service charge as well. The institution will require that the building is insured, although with sectional titles this is done by the body corporate.
Conveyancing is the process of transferring ownership of the property, and is performed by a legal firm. The buyer is usually liable for the attorneys' fees3, as well as various costs they incur (rates clearance certificate from the municipality, levy clearance certificate from the body corporate, and deeds office fee). The conveyancers also collect transfer duty from the buyer, which is a tax levied by the government. The legal firms agree on a recommended fee structure for their services, but are not obligated to stick to it. This process usually takes about 8 weeks.
Traditionally the conveyancers are chosen by the seller, which is a pretty stupid system since the buyer pays them. You may get a better deal if you shop around for conveyancers before hand and nominate them in your Offer to Purchase.
The mortgage bond needs to be registered against the property, and this is also done by a legal firm. Similar to the conveyancers, the buyer is liable for the attorneys' fees and associated costs. The bond attorneys are usually nominated by the lending institution. Like the conveyancing, there is a standard fee structure, but firms are not obligated to actually use it.
The conveyancers and bond attorneys lodge the various papers at the deeds office simultaneously, and it then takes a week or two to process the transfer. All in all the whole process should take about 3 months to complete. You will be liable for all rates and levies from the date of transfer.
Ooba have an affordability calculator to calculate what bond you can afford, and a bond and transfer costs calculator to estimate the purchase costs. Fin24 have a good bond calculator which graphs the capital and interest components of the bond.
After over a year of development, we have finally released Ibid. Ibid is a general purpose chat bot written in Python. We've suffered from a bit of feature creep, so despite being a 0.1 release it can talk 7 messaging protocols and has over 100 features provided by plugins. I think we also have an excellent architecture and very developer friendly plugin API. The 0.1.0 release can be downloaded from Launchpad or installed from our PPA.
SuperGenPass and Password Composer are password generators, which generate different passwords for each site you use based on a single master password. This gives you the convenience of only remembering one password as well as the security of using different (and strong) passwords for each site. This means that you won't have all your accounts compromised when1 one of them is compromised.
Most password generators are implemented as browser extensions or bookmarklets, since they are most frequently needed in a web browser. I've been wanting to start using a password generator, but I wanted to be sure that I could access my accounts even if I didn't have a web browser accessible. The two situations I could think of were a command line only system (e.g. SSH) and my cellphone2.
Surprisingly, I couldn't find a command line implementation of SuperGenPass, so I wrote one in Python. I also couldn't find any J2ME or Symbian implementations, and so wrote my own one in J2ME. They both support subdomain stripping and configurable password lengths. They don't support salted passwords.
I chose SuperGenPass over Password Composer because it uses a better scheme. Password Composer only uses hex characters, whereas SuperGenPass uses a base64 encoded hash. SuperGenPass also hashes the password multiple times (which would slow down a brute force attack to find the master password) and imposes complexity requirements on the generated password (which reduces the chances that the generated password can be brute forced).